We are looking at the meaning of wrath (orge) and anger (thumos) in the NT — and we are looking at these texts to see if they tip off a consistent pattern. The pattern we are looking for is one of three strands: does God’s wrath refer to God’s acts in history (historical wrath), to an evangelistic argument for responding in faith (evangelistic wrath), and/or to a sense that wrath is the Final Judgment of God (eternal wrath)? We looked at John and Jesus and argued there that historical wrath is in mind; now we are looking at Paul and while he may have historical wrath in mind, he seems also to have eternal wrath in mind. So, today we look at …
Romans 5:9 and its context: “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person?though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
The intent of God is to save and to give life. The focus here is not the anger or wrath of God, but instead God’s love and God’s grace. And this grace and love come to humans when they are sinners and it turns over sin, turns it on its head, and overcomes it … so that humans can find reconciliation with God. This reconciliation occurs through the death of Christ.
Having said that, and that is the emphasis of the text, an emphasis doesn’t mean there aren’t other themes present. One of those is wrath.
Paul sets up a comparison:
(A) We are (B) justified by his (C) blood.
(A2) We will be (B2) saved from God’s (C2) wrath.
Justification has an opposite: non-justification is non-salvation.
Wrath in this comparison is in alignment with blood (and blood is close to life/death here).
Perhaps the wrath of God is shown in God’s judgment on sin in the death of Christ.
Perhaps the wrath is separate from the death of Christ; perhaps the wrath is what those who have been justified-by-blood will escape. Perhaps Paul has simply wandered to the idea that those who in Christ will escape historical judgment in 70AD (I think that is a hard case to make).
Anyway, wrath must be connected in the next few verses with death.
Here’s how I would see it: wrath here refers to the consequences of sin, which is death, and therefore wrath and death are similar, which means Christ’s death is a wrath-kind of act. Judgment has come in Jesus’ death/blood. Wrath here is less likely historical wrath and more likely eternal wrath.